As the Collegian reported earlier this month, some students, concerned they are not receiving the same quality of education and resources they would have if classes were not moved online, have been publicly advocating for tuition refunds for the spring 2020 semester. In an email sent to the Collegian, Vice President for Finance and Treasurer Dan Valles said he was aware of students’ calls for refunds, but clarified that the University will not offer tuition refunds for the spring 2020 semester.
Valles explained that the move to online classes did not provide the University with any savings. In fact, it is likely that the expenses necessary to move classes online will make this semester more costly than if the University had not adopted distance learning.
“There is a common perception that remote or online teaching costs much less to provide and therefore the tuition should be less,” wrote Valles. He explained that this might be the case if class sizes were expanded, or if they were taught by less qualified professors. However, Willamette did not make such changes in its transition to online learning.
“Our professors continued their commitment to delivering a high-quality and engaging educational experience, albeit under the executive order from our governor to do this remotely, and it created no cost savings for Willamette to pass on as a tuition reimbursement.”
Students who had been living on campus but left before the end of the semester can receive room credits or cash grants to refund them for part of the room and board payments they made before the semester began. Room credits will be added to students’ accounts, and can later be used to pay for next semester’s tuition or room and board. The University is calculating both room credits and cash grants based on the date the student left campus, beginning on March 29.
Questions have also been raised about tuition costs for next semester, should distance learning continue into the fall.
“We are anticipating an in-person start in the fall,” said Valles. However, he said, should it be the case that online classes must continue in the fall 2020 semester, the University may then consider adjusting tuition prices.
“We would expect to have more time to prepare for online classes in the fall than we did in the spring which may enable us to reduce our cost structure and pass savings onto students,” Valles said. He noted that an adjustment in tuition would require students’ financial aid to be adjusted as well.
The temporary closure of Tokyo International University of American (TIUA) will impact the University’s finances, since Willamette received revenue from TIUA students living on campus and taking Willamette classes. However, Valles noted that the closure of TIUA will not impact tuition for the 2020-2021 academic year, saying, “the loss of that revenue is a relatively minor part of our budget and is not a cost we will pass onto our students.”